Worshippers of goddess Mazu recently celebrate her 1,050th birthday.
Collapsing communist ideology in China is leading to a massive religious revival, a situation of worldwide importance, considering China’s enormous population. According to NPR, in 2006 China conducted its first major survey of religious beliefs and found that 31.4 percent of about 4,500 people questioned described themselves as religious.
That amounts to more than 300 million religious believers, an astonishing number in an officially atheist country, and three times higher than the last official estimate, which had largely remained unchanged for years, according to NPR.
Across China, religious belief has far outpaced the government's ability to control the profusion of charismatic movements and revivals of traditional Chinese religions. Two-thirds of those who described themselves as religious in the 2006 survey said they were Buddhists, Taoists or worshippers of folk gods such as the Dragon King or the God of Fortune.
"It doesn't matter to the Chinese government whether you are a farmers' union, a Boy Scout troop, the Red Cross or the Catholic Church," says Sister Janet Carroll, a nun who has been active in China for decades. "If you gather people together, have authorities in place, financial means and some sort of organizational control over groups of people, the Chinese government wants to not only know about it, but also have a say about how it all functions."
To that end, after the communist revolution in 1949, the government recognized five official religions: Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Taoism and Islam. For each of them, associations were set up to supervise and monitor religious practice.
Increasing numbers of younger people in China are practicing religion. The 2006 survey showed 62 percent of religious believers are 39 and under.
Click here for the complete NPR article.